Authentic speech: what is it and why should you care?

By Emma Serlin
June 25, 2019

Communication and business are natural bedfellows. Whether we are pitching or presenting, flattering or firing, delegating or delivering: solid communication skills can help us in all business scenarios. The Serlin Method™ believes there are five core principles of great communication, the first of which is Authenticity.

This blog looks at authenticity in all it’s glory… and the unbearable pain of inauthentic speech.



“Out of all of them, that’s the most painful,” our Director Emma says with an apologetic smile in a Newsnight interview, referring to a clip of George Osborne speaking to a group of manual workers: “why?” the interviewer replies “He’s dropping his aitch!” (watch from 4.29 in the video above).

But what makes it quite so unbearable?

“It feels inauthentic”, as Emma puts it.

This is the crux of the communication error here: the Chancellor is feigning to be something that he quite evidently is not. We would not take issue with a Northerner going ‘tut’ anywhere, because we know this is in the fabric of their idiolect and an expression of their identity as a communicator. Osbourne’s PR-prescribed, spin-doctor sewn aitch-drop, on the other hand, seems to say “I’m just like you”, when he could not be further from it.

How do we avoid inauthenticity then? And what does it mean to be an authentic speaker anyway?

Authenticity = the connection between what you are saying, how you are saying it, and what you believe.

It is about being you and expressing yourself in your words, voice and body language, and you can never be a great speaker, without it.

Take the following as an interesting comparison:

The Queen, pauses, looks up, hits every vowel, consonant, diphthong and syllable with infallible technical precision—but—rarely writes her own speeches and never speaks her mind. Steve Jobs, by contrast, was fascinated, even fanatical about his products and designs and could not help but show his passion for this when he spoke. When we watch him talk about an iPhone that is slightly thinner than the previous model but still has more memory, we cannot help but be excited by this too even though, actually, this may be far less important than when Her Majesty speaks about matters of international security.

Authenticity, then, is about making the listener see what it is that you see, feel what you feel. In many ways, authentic communication is something that can come automatically: often if you are speaking about a topic you are passionate about, your body will engage, your eyes will brighten and your voice will be powered by your breath.

However, sometimes nerves or performance anxiety can get in the way of our authentic intuited responses. On these occasions, here are some tips to draw out powerful authentic communication when it may not come quite so easily.

Tip #1 Know your own values

Say that you value compassion, individuality, enthusiasm and hard-work. Because these values are part of who you are. you can more easily identify them in things you’re going to talk about. In short, once you identify your values, you find it much easier to connect authentically to what you are saying.

Tip #2 Link your values to what you are saying

If you know you have to speak about a subject of which you have little interest in, go through and try and draw out the bits that do matter to you. Identify these areas of resonance, actually underline them on the page and try and translate that feeling to the audience.

Tip # 3 Communicate as you

This is the mistake Mr. Osborne made so cringingly. Use your own voice, your expressions and your body language. It is true that in public speaking there are times when we have to perform and step out of our comfort zone, but this is simply exaggerating who we are already as communicators, not pretending to be people we are not. Be you, and whether the audience agree with you or not, they will value authenticity over insincerity.

Tip # 4 Dare to share your true self

Break down the wall between yourself and the listeners by sharing anecdotes, personal journeys and points that relate yourself to your audience: and watch their ears prick up!

Tip # 5 Be Present

Do not fear authentic speech—find it. Bring yourself to your speech, and authenticity will follow. Don’t spend the time fretting and wishing you were somewhere else!

In short: be present. Be centred. Be you.

And there we have it: some of the guiding principles of authentic communication. Authentic communication is not a rule book, only you can be you. See how these points fit with you as a communicator and really notice how you enjoy public speaking more when you are bringing yourself to the table.

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